Wilder’s Defeat and the European Union

On Wednesday, the Netherlands held the most important general election since the creation of the European Union. Most analysts suggested that, without a doubt, its results would determine the political future of the European project (including a potential dissolution).

After the rise of fascism in countries such as the UK and the US, the odds of victory for xenophobic and anti-European parties represented in the Netherlands by Geert Wilders, were higher than ever.

Over the last year, Wilders had expressed his desire to split with the European Union countless times, and the fear of that happening turned the Dutch elections into a referendum. As a result, the 13 million citizens eligible to vote had in their hands the hard task of deciding whether to remain in the EU or open a Pandora’s Box and begin its dissolution.

Months before the elections, the predictions were clearly favorable for Wilders. Most of the national polls suggested a clear victory for him, and some of them gave him 46% of the vote. On the other side, his great rival, the previous prime minister and candidate, Mark Rutte, spent most of the campaign persuading Dutch citizens that Wilders was “on the wrong side of populism.” His chances of winning were very low since most of the polls gave him catastrophic results.

However, (and fortunately for the European Union), the above-mentioned prognosis was erroneous, and despite winning 5 more seats than in the previous elections, the VPP of Wilders obtained 20 seats out of 150.

The winner of the elections was the VVD of Rutte who obtained 33 seats, 13 ahead of Wilders. Despite losing 8 seats compared to the previous elections, he declared that he was euphoric with the results. Considering that not even the most optimistic person believed in his victory, the final results were extraordinarily good.

Despite his victory, Rutte will have a hard task going forward if he wants to become the next prime minister for the third consecutive time. His victory is insufficient to form a government. For that reason, he will need to negotiate with at least three more political parties to form a coalition. Due to the complexity of the situation, it will take several months before he can form a stable government.

Dutch citizens delivered a clear message to the international community:

“We want neither bigotry nor populism in our country.”

Despite the citizens’ clear message refusing bigotry and populism, no one should forget that millions of them voted for Rutte because it was considered the best option to defeat Wilders. He represents the establishment, and as such, he will put the interests of the wealthy before those of the middle and working class.

Without a doubt, the defeat of Wilders was great news for the European Union, and this will contribute to decreasing populism in other countries. However, there is still a lot of work to do in the Netherlands to build a fair society where no one is discriminated against regardless of sexual, political, and religious orientation.

For the moment, the European Union has been able, temporarily, stall a critical threat to its existence. But unless its structure changes soon and the EU brings about equality among all its Members States, the alleged fascist’s populism will become a serious menace for the EU again.

The Truth is that the European Union has lost the appeal that it once had. The existing inequalities among member states in the EU, (notably ascendent Germany, which during the hardest moments of the global financial crisis, far from being supportive, took away benefits from the poorest countries in the Union), have contributed to the rise of populism all across Europe.

When countries such as Greece were going through catastrophic times, the German economy was in perfect condition without any signs of weakness. Later it was revealed that Germany took away vitality from countries such as Greece by demanding they pay back loans with exorbitant interest rates.

It is clear then that, without structural changes and more equality, the dissolution of the European Union will soon be inevitable.

Pending the arrival of big structural changes, the European Union will soon be tested again in upcoming elections in Germany and France. Fortunately, now that the Dutch elections are over, populism will not have many chances to win, but as I have said, structural changes must soon be done or it (populism) may increase its odds to obtain good results.